Sequim swimmers churn the waters at the Sequim YMCA last week in preparation for their upcoming, shortened season. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

‘Fall’ sports previews: Cross country, girls swim teams prep for shortened seasons

“Fall” high school sports in February? That’s the new reality under COVID-19.

With Clallam County stuck in Phase 1, just two of Sequim High’s five prep teams that started their season practices on Feb. 1 are eligible to begin competition, with cross country teams allowed in-person meets with limited participating teams and girls swimming allowed “virtual” meets.

Here are season previews for those teams, with previews for football, girls soccer and volleyball in upcoming Sequim Gazette editions:

Cross Country

Head coach: Paul Brinkman (second year)

Assistant: B.J. Schade

2019 record: Girls 6-2, boys 3-5; four athletes (three girls, one boy) to state 2A meet (Pyeatt sixth)

Returning athletes: Girls — Riley Pyeatt (jr.), Anastasia Updike (so.), Jessica German (sr.), Macy Cogburn (so.), Aiden Shingleton (jr.), Abby Benjamin (jr.). Boys — Eli Gish (sr.), Theo McMurray (jr.), Jaxon Cogburn (jr.), Tyler Lawson (jr.), Zach Gufler (jr.)

Newcomers: Girls — None. Boys — Colby Ellefson (fr.), Aidan Braaten (sr.), Henry Hughes (jr.).

Outlook: Several key runners came in with strong form after winter workouts, SHS cross country assistant coach B.J. Schade said. In particular, that’s state meet qualifiers Riley Pyeatt, Anastasia Updike, Jessica German and Eli Gish, along with Henry Hughes and standout freshman Colby Ellefson.

“That core group of kids are coming in, in shape,” Schade said.

With no district or state meet on the schedule to shoot for — large competitions are not on the proverbial table at this point, because of state COVID restrictions — the goal for the Wolves is a bit altered this season, Schade said.

“On the girls side, it’s building a team for next fall,” he said. “I think we have the girls to make it (to state).”

That team is led by Pyeatt, a junior who raced to a 13th-place finish at state as a freshman and sixth last year. Updike and German give the Wolves a strong second and third, while returners Macy Cogburn, Aiden Shingleton and Abby Benjamin provide some depth for a team with no newcomers.

For the Sequim boys, Schade said this season will be about laying a foundation for the future. Gish, who qualified for the state meet as a freshman in 2017 and last year as a junior, will be pressed by Ellefson for the top spot.

“It’s nice to have (Eli) out as a mentor for Colby,” Schade said.

As for season adjustments, runners are still coming to terms with the required face coverings, Schade said.

“They hate it,” he said. “We’re trying to find different masks. They’re just getting used to it. We’re trying to be as strict as we can.”

Schade said coaches are hoping to put together some sort of culminating league meet.

“It depends on how things are going (with COVID restrictions),” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get to do that in person.”

Sequim gets one home meet, set for March 6 at Robin Hill Farm County Park against Klahowya. The 2020-2021 cross country season looks to end by early or middle of March.

“We’re excited just to have a season,” head coach Paul Brinkman said at a recent practice. “We’ll take a short season versus no season.”

2020/2021 season schedule

Saturday, Feb. 6 — at Klahowya (11:45 a.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 — at East Jefferson (9 a.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 20 —at Kingston (2:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 27 — at Olympic (2:30 p.m.)

Saturday, March 6 — vs. Klahowya (11:45 a.m.)

Girls swimming

Head coach: Sarah Thorson (second year)

Assistants: Cherise Feser, Chuck Lamb

2019 record: 5-2 in Olympic League (third), eighth at districts, 24th (tied) at state 2A meet

Returning swimmers: Mia Coffman (jr.), Lauren Sundin* (jr.), Petra Bernsten* (jr.), Eislynn Flood* (sr.), Claire Cronin (sr.), Sydnee Price (jr.), Faith Amaya (jr.), Melanie Byrne (jr.), Layla Gibson (jr.), Keena Paris (jr.), Madeline Pickens (jr.), Christina Caples (so.), Julia Jeffers (so.), Kasiya Bess (so.),

* — captains

Newcomers: Hi’ilei Robinson (so.), Alisa Bibaj (jr.), Krista Charters (fr.)

Outlook: Second-year coach Sarah Thorson has a pool loaded with a strong junior class — loaded, but spaced out per health restriction guidelines.

“I think they’re just excited to see each other; this is a big deal for them,” Thorson said last week, as the team began preparations for the season — about 13 months after the last time the Wolves saw competition.

This year’s “competition” will all be virtual, Thorson noted. COVID-19 restrictions have the Wolves running “meets” each week by recording top times and posting them with swimmers from other league schools.

Doing in-person competitions would be tough this year even if they were allowed, Thorson noted, with Port Townsend not having a pool available and just one usable facility open in the Kitsap region.

Seeing other top league swimmers post strong times should be motivator for Sequim athletes to improve times, she said.

Last season, then-sophomore Mia Coffman raced to a pair of state berths (ninth in 500 free, 15th in 200 free) while Sequim’s 400 free relay team earned a state berth, placing 16th.

Thorson said coaches this season are looking at a league culminating event following regular meets. It too would likely be done virtually, she said, but would offer athletes a chance for all-league honors.

“We’ll try to do (the season) as normal as possible, but safely,” she said.

Other than some lane restrictions for athletes, the other big change is that no spectators will be allowed at practices or meets.

2020/2021 season schedule

Note: All meets are held virtual; no traveling/visiting teams at host school

Wednesday, Feb. 10 — at East Jefferson

Wednesday, Feb. 17 — at Port Angeles

Friday, Feb. 19 — at Klahowya

Wednesday, Feb. 24 — at Olympic

Friday, Feb. 26 — vs. Kingston

Wednesday, March 3 — vs. Port Angeles

Friday, March 5 — vs. East Jefferson

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